SHORT GAP - Alexandra Griffith has reached two important milestones in her life - she officially became a Frankfort High School graduate last Saturday and she made the difficult decision to continue her education at Yale.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
SHORT GAP - Alexandra Griffith has reached two important milestones in her life - she officially became a Frankfort High School graduate last Saturday and she made the difficult decision to continue her education at Yale.
And while most people would say choosing Yale wouldn’t be difficult at all - as long as you made the grade to be accepted - Alexandra had the distinction of being accepted to three Ivy League schools and having to decide which one would best suit her educational needs.
The FHS co-valedictorian received acceptance letters from Harvard University in Massachusetts, Columbia University in New York, and Yale University in Connecticut.
It is believed she just may be the only Frankfort graduate to have that honor.
Alexandra’s parents, Mary Jane Baniak and Jason Griffith, call their active daughter “self motivated.”
Alexandra, however, sees it a different way.
“I’m very self critical and that has motivated me internally,” she says.
She was able to get a jump on her college education by taking the “college bundle” while still in high school - two college English classes, psychology, western civilization and calculus - through dual enrollment with WVU Potomac State College.
Mom Mary Jane says she went above and beyond that, as well. “She took advantage of everything the education system had to offer … she did a class online and has done some other things on her own.”
Both Baniak, who is a pediatric therapist and also currently serves on the Mineral County Board of Education, and Jason, who is a veterinarian in Allegany County, credit the public school system for much of their family’s success.
“We’re both proud products of West Virginia schools and we appreciate the education she’s gotten here,” he said of Alexandra.
Alexandra’s high school career has not been completely academic, however. She has run cross country and track for four years, served in Student Council, as class president, and been a member of the band, where she served as drum major.
“Band has been a huge part of my life,” she says, crediting band director Roger Walker as a big influence. “He saw I had the potential and he encouraged me.”
As for her chosen field of study, Alexandra says she plans to study environmental engineering.
“We’ve always been an environmentally conscious family,” she says, explaining that they are often hiking, kayaking, running or otherwise just “being outside” together as a family.
Upset about how “large powers often abuse the planet,” she says, “I always wanted to strive to do good things. I feel something needs to be done and I could be that person!”
So how did she come to pick Yale out of the three outstanding universities?
The first to be ruled out was Columbia, which had more to do with location than anything.
“Even though it’s an awesome school, she doesn’t want to be in the big city,” mom Mary Jane said.
“I wanted to be someplace different, but (New York) might have been too big a jump,” Alexandra said, laughing.
Alexandra went on to say she was impressed by Yale during her visit there, and feels the university will be the best fit for her.
“I just think they will do all they can to make you comfortable and at home on campus,” she said. “When I was there, I was able to sit down and talk with a girl from West Virginia who went there. She was a really good person to talk to.”
Alexandra felt so at home at Yale, in fact, that she will begin her life there early - with a summer job.
“She’ll be a counselor for a program she attended there last year,” mom Mary Jane said.
“It’s called Yale Young Global Scholars, and you stay in the dorms and you get to go to lectures taught by actual Yale professors,” Alexandra explained. “It sort of like gives you an idea of what it’s like.
“It’s a really great program.”